Greek cuisine – what dishes are worth trying?

The impression of the country would not be complete without trying the national cuisine in local establishments during the trip, especially when it comes to Greece. Greeks love, and most importantly, know how to cook, turning the national Greek dishes into a work of art.

Greek cuisine

Features of national cuisine

The national dishes of Greek cuisine are characterized by a multifaceted game of flavors and benefits. Many nutritionists for weight normalization recommend following the Mediterranean diet based on the principles of Greek cuisine.

The benefits of the national cuisine of Greece are due to simple but important factors:

  1. The use of healthy products – fresh vegetables, herbs, cheeses of their own making, seafood, fruits;
  2. Greeks do not abuse fast food;
  3. the most popular and traditional product is olive oil, which is added to many national dishes and its benefits have been known for thousands of years;
  4. national dishes are seasoned with lemon juice instead of salt, citrus fruits are added to main dishes (meat and fish), in marinades, desserts;
  5. Greeks often consume a lot of dairy products: yogurt, goat’s milk, feta and bryndza.

The main feature of the national cuisine is natural, organic products, most are grown and produced in the country.

It’s interesting! The national Greek cuisine is a certain lifestyle. According to statistics, the Greeks are less likely to suffer from heart disease, cancer and obesity. The first book on Greek food culture was written in 330 BC.

First courses

Fakes

First courses are not popular in the national cuisine, as a rule, soups, purees of vegetables are cooked.

Still, in Greece you must try soups as well:

  • “Fasolada” is a traditional bean soup;
  • “Fakes, a lentil soup to which is accompanied by salted fish, cheese (mostly bryndza), olives and red onions. These soups are offered in hot weather.

In the winter, more filling and hearty soups appear on restaurant menus:

  • “Avgolemono,” a rice grits soup with chicken broth with whipped egg and lemon juice;
  • “Vrasto” – the national beef soup.

Greek appetizers

Traditionally, every meal begins with appetizers that stimulate the appetite. They are served in plates of small diameter. Snack dishes that Greeks love themselves and recommend tourists to try:

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  • Dolmadakia, the equivalent of stuffed cabbage rolls.
  • “Dzadziki” is both an appetizer and a sauce made from yogurt, fresh cucumbers, olive oil, and fragrant garlic;
  • “Dolmadakya” – analog of traditional stuffed cabbage rolls and dolma, an appetizer of rice, minced meat wrapped in grape leaves;
  • “Kalamarakya” – calamari fried until crispy;
  • “Taramasalata” – a national dish of smoked cod roe, olives, herbs, lemon and vegetable oil;
  • “Tirokafteri” – traditional soft cheese appetizer and peppers (spicy varieties).

Salads

Salads

There are two types of salads in the national cuisine of Greece:

  • Melidzanosalata Greek Salad.
  • hot – with roasted vegetables;
  • Cold – with fresh vegetables.
  • Among the hot salads, the following are popular.
  • “Brocola” – a traditional broccoli dish.
  • “Pandzari” – beet salad.
  • “Melidzanosalata” – a mixture of roasted eggplant, vegetable oil, spices, lemon and fragrant garlic.

Sometimes yogurt, tomatoes, and seasoned green onions are added to the dish.

Nutritionists call this dish flawless in terms of the principles of proper nutrition, and gourmands rightly consider this combination of products to be perfect in taste.
Horiatiki or rustic salad

Greek salad

National cold salads include fresh vegetables, mixtures of spices, a variety of cheeses, olive oil and lemon juice. They are traditionally served with wine or grape vinegar.

  • “Hortu” is a traditional dandelion dish, the main ingredient being radicchio.
  • “Horiatiki” or rustic salad – in our parts the dish is better known as “Greek salad.” It includes tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, onions, olives, aromatic spices and olive oil, supplemented with feta cheese. You will surely be interested to try the Greek salad in its homeland.
  • “Lahano” – a salad of white cabbage, carrots, root and leaves of celery, some housewives complement the salad with sweet peppers.
  • “Dacos.”
  • Much of the country’s food culture has been influenced by Italian cuisine. This influence is reflected in the use of products common in the territory of Italy, for example, rucolla.

In some regions of Greece, they offer a salad made with rucolla leaves, called “Roca”. A popular recipe is sun-dried tomatoes, rucolla, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese.

In Crete, they love the traditional salad “Dakos” made of special, large croutons, they are soaked a little, tomatoes are placed on top, finely diced crumbled feta cheese.
The mixture is dressed with olive oil mixed with oregano.
Sometimes dacos breadcrumbs are substituted with small dacchia breadcrumbs.

Main dishes of Greece

Traditional Greek main dishes are made from meat, fish and seafood. There’s plenty to choose from and try.

Meat dishes

Meat dishes

Brisoles – meat on the bone
The culture of the national Greek cuisine is based on one fundamental rule: there’s no need to overcomplicate things.

A good dish, according to the Greeks, is prepared as quickly and easily as possible, that’s why they prefer to bake the meat in any convenient way.

Meat is eaten in different ways, but if you are traveling in the mountainous regions, it is worth trying roasted game or boar meat. Traditional Greek meat dishes:

  • “Brisoles” – juicy, flavorful meat on the bone;
  • “Souvlaki” – compact kebabs;
  • “Kondosouvli” – the equivalent of our traditional kebab;
  • “Paidakya” – traditional baked ribs (most often lamb);
  • “Gyros” – a flatbread dish similar to döner kebab or shawarma, but different in that it necessarily includes fries.
  • “Kokorezi. Real gourmands will surely want to try this dish, because how appetizing it sounds: the internal organs of lamb, wrapped in guts, and baked in the oven.

What to try in Greece for lovers of European cuisine?

  • Bifteki – chopped cutlets of different diameters
  • “Bifteki” – the usual chopped cutlets of different diameters, seasoned with aromatic herbs, cheese, various vegetables.

The national traditions of Greek cuisine are based on the culture of many peoples, for many decades they were formed under the influence of the Turkish yoke:

  • “Sudzukakia” – traditional cutlets thickly seasoned with spices;
  • “Kebabs” – a masterful dish prepared in the northern regions, where the Turkish diaspora has settled.

National Greek dishes worth tasting in the mountainous part of the country

First of all, this category includes homemade meat or game in clay pots with vegetables. The most common variant of the name is “Kleftico.”

Arni lemonato – lamb under a lemon marinade

Treats of national Greek cuisine that you must try:

  • “Kuneli” – rabbit stew with vegetables;
  • “Arni lemonato” – lamb cooked under a lemon marinade;
  • “Coconisto” – beef under a tomato marinade;
  • “Moussaka” – a popular traditional dish of the Balkans. It is prepared from eggplants, minced meat, tomatoes, potatoes, cheese, onions, then baked with Béchamel sauce and cheese;
  • “Pastizio” – layered casserole of pasta, minced meat, traditional white marinade.

The meat is garnished with rice and vegetables.

Dishes of fish

Dishes of fish

Every tourist when asked what to try in Greece from the food, unequivocally answer – fish and, of course, seafood. Native Greeks treat seafood with honor, because the state is located on the coast of the sea.

Grilled fish
Big fish is grilled on coals or grilled, seasoned with vegetable oil and lemon juice.

Smaller fish such as sea tongue, mullet, sultana are fried. Cod, stingray, swordfish, shark (small, Mediterranean) are also fried most often.

Certain fish are used exclusively in the process of cooking ukha. The fish is served separately with a marinade of vegetable oil and lemon and the broth is served separately.

Lake varieties of fish – trout, sturgeon or salmon – are better tasted in the central regions or in Macedonia.

Important: The traditional approach to cooking – impeccable freshness of products. The price is determined by the place of catch – local fish is more expensive than imported. Fish menus in restaurants are more expensive than meat menus.

Seafood is presented in a separate section of the menu.

Popular dishes:

Octopus: baked or boiled;
Squids: traditional baked – “Calamaria Tiganita”, fried with cheese filling – “Calamaria Yemista me Tiri”;
cuttlefish stewed with spinach leaves;
shrimp: fried or stewed in a tomato and cheese marinade;
Traditional mussels steamed or in a tomato and cheese marinade.

Useful information! The crowning national dish in Greek cuisine is lobster with pasta – “Macaronada me Astako”.

The seafood of the sea is given special attention and is used to prepare culinary masterpieces that will easily captivate the discerning gourmet.

If you want to try something special, check out the shrimp dish cooked in tomato sauce and seasoned with feta cheese, or the octopus dish in sweet wine seasoned with spices.

Desserts

Desserts

The traditional sweet dishes of Greek cuisine are, above all, a Turkish heritage.
By the way, the tradition of drinking coffee cooked in a turk also remains from the Ottoman Empire.

While vacationing on the Mediterranean coast, be sure to delight yourself with original desserts:

  • “Lukumades” – balls made of dough, flavored with spices, sprinkled with honey, sprinkled with powdered sugar;
  • “Baklava” – traditional cake filled with fruit syrup, chopped nuts, the dessert is usually made with 33 layers (a symbol of Christ’s age);
  • “Curabiedes” – cookies made of shortbread dough and almonds;
  • “Rizogalo” – a pudding of rice, dried fruit, nuts, flavored with cinnamon;
  • “Halvas” – halva made with semolina.

Greek Sauces

Greek Sauces

If you’re researching Greek dishes to try while traveling, be sure to pay attention to sauces. Greeks are great at them and make them to almost every dish. Features traditional Greek sauces:

  • only natural ingredients;
  • no complicated recipes;
  • maximum benefits.


The main principle of a proper sauce is that it should delicately accentuate the flavor and aroma of the main dish.

Sauce ingredients should be as versatile as possible and combine with fish, seafood, meat and vegetables. The most common ingredients used in the preparation process are:

  • natural yogurt;
  • vegetable (olive) oil;
  • lemon juice;
  • special, Greek garlic.


Avgolemono” is a classic sauce. It is served with main dishes and salads, used in cooking soups. It takes just a few minutes to prepare – a mixture of eggs and lemon juice is diluted with broth. The proportions are chosen individually, depending on the desired thickness of the sauce. The marinade gives the main dish a slight sourness.

Cooking secret! Do not bring marinade to the boil, because protein will curdle.

For seafood they make a marinade of mustard, vegetable oil, lemon juice and a mixture of dried herbs. In some regions they add honey to this mixture, which gives the dish a soft, uniform texture. For fish, and as a salad dressing, they prepare a sauce with just two components – lemon juice and olive oil.

To the main dishes are served scorchali sauce, made from fragrant garlic, almonds and vegetable oil. Sometimes bread crumbs and finely chopped potatoes are added to the sauce. This makes a hearty appetizer.

Cooking secret! To smooth out the pungent taste of the garlic, it is baked beforehand.

The original sauce “Fava” – it is prepared from mashed beans or lentils, dressed with olive oil, lemon juice, natural yogurt and greens (usually parsley).

Products of national production

Products of national production

Greek cheese deserves a special mention.
The country produces more than 60 varieties of cheese, each of which is served as an appetizer or main course and used to prepare other dishes.

During your stay in Greece, we recommend trying the following cheeses:

  • “Feta” – white cheese, quite dense in consistency, made from sheep’s milk (less often from goat’s milk).
  • “Graviera” – a cheese with a sweet taste, firm consistency, made from sheep’s milk.
  • “Manuri” – sheep cheese, has a soft, delicate consistency, has a high caloric value.
  • “Kasseri” – cheese made from a mixture of sheep and goat milk, white in color with a slight yellowish hue.
  • “Kefalotiri” – a savory cheese with a salty flavor and a firm, porous structure.

Another traditional product is olive oil. Here it is sold in every grocery store. Sometimes you can taste the product before you buy it. Presented oil in pure form or with the addition of spices, aromatic herbs.

National drinks

National drinks

Ouzo

The most famous alcoholic Greek drink is ouzo. It is the first thing you should try. Ouzo is made by distilling alcohol with the addition of anise, bouquet of spices (most often cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves). There are many producers in Greece, that is why the composition and the percentage of alcohol content vary from 20% to 40%.

Ouzo is consumed with fish and seafood dishes and served in tall, narrow glasses. In grocery stores the drink is sold in bottles of different sizes, the minimum cost – 3 euros.

Tsipuro and Raki

Tsipuro and raki are alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content between 37% and 47%, similar to moonshine. The main difference between them is the presence of anise – tsipuro has it, raki has no spice.

Tsipuro is served chilled, in a carafe with a high, narrow neck. You drink it in small glasses, in one gulp. As a rule, Tsipouro is ordered by Greeks of the older generation, while the younger generation prefers other drinks. The cost of one bottle varies from 3 to 4 euros.

Rakomelo drink.

This is an alcoholic beverage, which consists of two components – honey and crayfish (not the ones found in the river, but the one described above). Sometimes cinnamon and cloves are added. The drink is most often prepared in the cold season, because you need to drink it hot. Some Greeks use rakomelo as a medicine for colds.

You can buy rakomelo in any supermarket, but it is better to make the drink yourself – buy crayfish and honey. The process takes a few minutes, and the taste is much better than the store product. Pour the crayfish in a turkey, heat it, add honey to taste, and take it off the fire before it boils. The drink is ready, now you can taste it!

Mastic

This liqueur is made in Greece. Its distinctive feature is the presence of mastic, a resin extracted from an evergreen shrub. Mastic in Greece is used for the preparation of many dishes, in cosmetology.

The liquor is served as an aperitif and after meals for better digestion. The taste of the mastic is original and memorable – sweet with a slight fruity-pine flavor. The cost of one bottle is about 10 euros.

Coffee

The most popular drink in Greece is coffee. It seems that people drink it all the time – hot, cold, with and without crema, with milk or cream, with the addition of various spices. If a person orders tea instead of coffee, the Greeks are bound to think that he has a health problem.

If you want to fully understand what national Greek dishes are like, try them not in the hotel, and in local tavernas and restaurants. This is the only way to get a taste of the real Greece.

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One Comment

  1. Let me start by saying I’m Greek, so I know a thing or two about Greek food. The food at this restaurant is as authentic as it gets! There were 5 adults and 2 toddlers in our group. We ordered a variety of food. Including salad, saganaki, tzatziki, pork fillet, macaroni with meat sauce, and a chicken in a delicious cream sauce. But the greatest food item was the kaltsounia. This is similar to spinach pie, but made with a different type of dough and cheeses. A must try. I would’ve eaten at this restaurant if it wasn’t an hour away from my hotel.

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